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Unit information: International Commercial Arbitration in 2018/19

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Unit name International Commercial Arbitration
Unit code LAWDM1005
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Hill
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


Arbitration has become the dispute resolution method of choice in international business; transnational contracts frequently include a clause referring any disputes which may arise between the parties to arbitration. This unit aims to explain how arbitration works as a method of dispute resolution and to explore the legal framework in which international commercial arbitration operates. This framework comprises four main components: first, the law governing the arbitration agreement (which determines the agreement's validity and scope); secondly, the rules which govern procedural aspects of an arbitration (such as the constitution of the tribunal, the tribunal's powers and the powers that may be exercised by a national court in relation to an arbitration); thirdly, the law (or other considerations) by reference to which the tribunal determines the parties' dispute; and fourthly, the law governing enforcement of an arbitral award through the courts (whether in the country of origin or in another country).


  • to understand how arbitration differs from litigation and to assess its strengths and weaknesses as a method of dispute resolution;
  • to understand how the essentially private process of arbitration interacts with the legal system;
  • to understand the interrelationship between applicable norms which derive from a variety of different sources at different levels (the agreement of the parties, arbitral institutions, national law and international conventions);
  • to understand the various stages of an arbitration and the different ways in which legal problems can arise at these various stages;
  • to be able to identify the legal problems posed by complex factual situations and to understand how the applicable norms provide answers to such problems;
  • to understand how the current legal framework came into being and how it might be reformed;
  • to understand the key theoretical debates which have played a role in shaping the laws development.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, the student will be able, to a degree commensurate with the level at which the unit is taught, to:

  • demonstrate a sound understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of arbitration as a method of dispute resolution and of the legal framework which regulates international commercial arbitration
  • reveal an understanding of the ways in which the legal system can impact upon the process of arbitration
  • show some understanding of the different approaches taken by different legal systems to certain key issues
  • show a firm grasp of the important legal principles in the field of international commercial arbitration and be able to apply them accurately to offer reasoned solutions to hypothetical problem questions;
  • understand the process whereby the system for the regulation of international commercial arbitration has arrived at its current position
  • show an understanding of the goals of legal regulation in this field and assess the theoretical debates that have shaped the current system of regulation.

Teaching details

This unit is taught by way of 10 lectures (approx.), 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions. Lectures are delivered jointly to students on the related undergraduate unit.

Assessment Details

Summative: a 2000 word essay (33%) and a 3 hour written examination (67%). Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

  • Born, International Arbitration: Law and Practice (2012)
  • Redfern & Hunter, Law and Practice of International Commercial Arbitration (6th edn, 2015)
  • Moses, The Principles and Practice of International Commercial Arbitration (2nd Ed, 2012)
  • Lew, Mistelis & Kroll, Comparative International Commercial Arbitration (2003)
  • Born, International Arbitration: Cases and Materials (2011)